3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not so much Dunkirk as the Fall of France,
This review is from: Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man (Paperback)
Despite the title - designed to invoke the myth - this is not really about the Dunkirk evacuation at all, but instead how it all came to pass. The invasion of the low countries, Blitzkreig, and the Fall of France are all covered in detail. Sometimes you think it was a close run thing, and at others you wonder how the BEF survived at all. This is written like a novel, but fastidiously endnoted, with much of the detail moved there where it would interrupt the narrative flow (there are 500 pages of book plus 200 pages of notes and index - this is a serious scholarly work).
Its only 350+ pages in that the actual evacuation from Dunkirk - Operation Dynamo - begins to be discussed. Prior to that it's the fighting retreat of the BEF and the French Army, the sack of Belgium, and the continuation of SS atrocities begun in Poland. The action zooms from unit-level infantry actions, to the role of the RAF, albeit at a high level, apart from early discussions about the misuse of the aging bomber force. Above it all is the actions of politicians - the Reynaud Government in France, the King of Belgium, and the British cabinet, masterfully managed by Churchill.
Once begun, the evacuation is briefly told, with moments of heroism, pathos and loss: the incredible numbers evacuated are noted, even underplayed, while the unlucky soldiers who held a very thin line against German pressure get the bulk of the spotlight. Their ultimate surrender is painful to read.
Even after the end of Dynamo, the book goes on to (briefly) cover the role of the 51st Highland, the evacuation of the 2nd BEF, and the sinking of the Lancastria. The books closes with a short "whatever happened to" some key players who are not household names (there is no need to cover off the fortunes of Churchill, for example).
I'm not a historian, so I have not checked all the notes against primary sources (or even read all the notes). But as an interested reader, it's a great book.